This post contains rage and disbelief. You’ve been warned…
I think the technical term for my current state of being is “frothing at the mouth.”
It all started when I checked my credit card statement and found a $48 charge for tolls posted Monday by Avis, my rental car company. I have a long term rental through them but the toll posted out of New York and I haven’t driven in New York since March.
I called Avis and they said (and I quote) “that’s weird.” And then they referred me to the toll company with which they have an agreement. So I called the toll company. A very cheerful boy answered the phone, looked up my file, put me on hold and came back with this story:
“Uh, Miss Barrett. Our company is based in New York, which is why the charge originated there. But it says here that you drove on the George W Bush Turnpike in Texas. That’s what we call a cashless toll road, meaning that the state doesn’t want to pay toll booth operators or maintain toll booths but they want to keep the toll road. So they destroyed the toll booths and installed little scanners that scan your license plate and charge the credit card or bank account linked to the license plate. They aren’t very well marked and often people drive on them and don’t know that they are toll roads.”
He didn’t pause here but I’m going to so you can assimilate that breathtaking piece of sneakiness.
Then he continued “It’s only a $3 charge to use the road but the rental agreement that you signed allows us to charge you $2.50 a day for each subsequent day of the rental.”
I’ve had this car for almost a month since I drove in Texas and that means they’ve charged me $3 for the toll road and $45 (and counting) for the privilege of driving through Texas 3 weeks ago.
I won’t bore you with the subsequent 20 minute conversation with that poor cheerful boy wherein he kept saying things like “the rental agreement THAT YOU SIGNED” and I kept saying “You mean Texas has unmarked toll roads!? You mean to tell me that I’m getting charged for a toll road I’m not on!!!??? You mean that I signed an agreement saying that if I once touch my tires to a toll road, I get charged for it as long as I have the car??? Even when I’m on the other side of the country??”
Bottom line: yes. To every question, yes.
The not as cheerful boy took a couple meetings with his supervisor in the course of my half hour phone call and then came back and said “Even though your rental agreement sanctions us to charge you, as a courtesy, we’re going to give you a $42 credit…” and I fire back “It’s not a courtesy!!! You’re removing charges you never should have placed to begin with!!!” and then he says “The rental agreement THAT YOU SIGNED…” And the froth starts to build up in the corners of my mouth.
We finished the conversation with me saying “You know this isn’t reasonable, right? It’s not reasonable for you to be charging me today to have used a toll road a month ago. I realize it’s not your personal fault, but it’s also wrong.” And he said “Yes,” I think to get me off the phone and because I told him it wasn’t his fault.
So then I called my rental company and the weary man who took my phone call listened to me frothing and said “Miss Barrett, most people who rent our cars don’t drive through the whole country. Our rental agreements aren’t set up for people like you. Yes, it’s unreasonable to be charged $45 to drive through Texas. No, I don’t know the exact clause of the agreement that allows a charge like that but yes, we do have an agreement with the toll company to charge our cars daily because normally people stay in state and use the toll roads! Yes, it needs to change. Yes, I’m sorry. No, there’s nothing I can do.” And then he told me to watch my credit card and take it up with the toll company if I saw further charges.
I feel like there’s a moral to this story. Let’s make it a “Choose your own ending” kind of scenario:
A. Don’t drive through Texas in a rental car.
B. Don’t drive through Texas.
C. Everyone who works in a company with ridiculous contracts must be issued a stiff drink every hour to get them to answer their phones.
D. Kaitlyn doesn’t get to be mad at the world when she wants to do something ordinary people don’t do and it all goes a little bit sideways. She should accept. Perhaps surrender. And she should certainly be nice on the phone.
E. Kaitlyn should also be issued a stiff drink when she opens her credit card statements.
Pick wisely. The editors like option E. Just saying.
Happy “don’t drive through Texas and be nice to customer service reps making minimum wage” day!
Talk about highway robbery!
Ridiculous!! Outrageous and maddening!
So sneaky. When I was in Austin and Fort Worth last year, there were several times I suddenly found myself on a toll road, not a red cent on me, which turned out not to be an issue since there were no toll gates/booths. I knew they’d be scanning the cars somehow and wondered if/how it would come back to bite me. As yet, it hasn’t. Perhaps it was the black electrical tape I’d used to cover the license plate? In any case, I can’t believe the NERVE of the rental contract.
Did they ever, at any point, offer even the slimmest explanation of why it costs *them* $2.50 a day to add a one-tiime charge to your bill when you return the car? It’s not like that $3.00 that they had to send off to the toll company would have earned 83.3% interest daily and until you restored it, they’d make it up by charging you all that lost earnings. In. F@ing. Sane. So wrong. Frothing justified.
There’s no real justification for the rental contract. And even if I’d remembered reading it, I wouldn’t have known it applied when I didn’t even know I was on a toll road to start with! ooooh… getting frothy all over again. It’s incredibly annoying. As far as I know there aren’t any other “cashless” toll roads on the west coast so I should be good for the rest of this rental. But caveat emptor all you car renters out there…
Continuing my role as a TomTom for iPhone ambassador — when you enter a destination, it detects if there are toll roads and offers the option to avoid them = )
Obviously I didn’t have it when I was in Texas last!
speaking of things I stole from you, your tom tom set up is winging it’s way to you as I type! It only took me a month to return it…
It arrived safe and sound yesterday, and I was no worse off without it = )
Yesterday this post upset me and I wanted to rant. I clicked away instead. Thought I’d come back and look for the silver lining. And I’ve come up with – you got a post out of the experience and, and, ah . . .
Exactly. That’s about it. Plus an e-receipt break down of the $3 charge and the $45 interest fee. Just in case I’d forgotten.